In recent weeks, quite a bit has been released via podcasts from Christianity Today— Executive Producer, Erik Petrik and produced, written, edited, and hosted by Mike Cosper titled:
“The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.”
I have been asked numerous times since these podcasts first appeared if I have listened to them and what I think of them. I have listened to just two of the ten or so that have been published. Some of you may know that I was one of the pastors on staff at Mars Hill Church (MHC) for eight years—2005-2013. I was there when all of this was going down. I resigned my eldership and church membership in the fall of 2013 due to my inability to continue to support the top leadership of the church and the direction they were heading.
I have publicly confessed my cowardice and complicity in what transpired at MHC, and for not speaking out much earlier than I did on what was happening. I valued my salaried job over speaking truth to power. Again, I am deeply sorry for not taking a stand and saying something much earlier than I did.
Not everything that happened at MHC was bad. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, some really amazing things took place.
Many people met Jesus in profound and transformative ways. Hundreds were baptized, as they professed their faith in Jesus. We had amazing and engaging worship. We had genuine and vulnerable community groups. Mark Driscoll was an extremely gifted communicator—just to name a few.
Sadly though, I believe it was a classic case of competence overpowering character and leaving character in the dust. I have said numerous times through the years that more people lose out over character issues than competency issues.
One passage in The Message that has been extremely helpful and insightful for me in all of this is Mark 10:42,43:
“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, He said, and when people get a little power, how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you.”
As leaders, and by His grace, may success, fruitfulness and popularity not go to our heads resulting in pride and dishonoring the one who gifted us and called us.
As many of you know, Mark resigned his role at MHC in 2014, and a few years later planted Trinity Church in Phoenix. I continue to pray for Pastor Mark most days. If you go to my website davekraft.org and, in the search box type, Mars Hill Church, several posts will appear about my experience there.
In one of these posts, I listed four things I am learning, processing and sharing.
Here they are again in the form of an acrostic—ACTS:
There were numerous situations and instances where top leaders had almost no accountability in their lives and ministries. They had it on paper, but not in practice. The tough questions were not asked. There wasn’t a willingness to defer to others on staff who had experience and wisdom. A certain degree of pride and arrogance set in and ruled a lot of the time. There wasn’t openness to being genuinely accountable to others for attitudes and behaviors that were sinful and harmful.
Sin was committed over a number of years (in clear violation of I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and I Peter 5), but that sin was not adequately owned and confessed. There was a good amount of excuse-making and blame-casting. We didn’t have a confessional culture where the leaders who were confronted accepted responsibility for their sin.
Top-level leaders were not open to receiving honest inquiries from other pastors on staff. Decisions were not discussed but rather announced with very little dialogue or input. There was defensiveness when an idea or direction was questioned or challenged. Asking good questions, listening well and being on the hunt for new and better ideas and ways of doing things were not a part of the culture.
The pace of ministry and functioning in crises mode a good deal of the time, due to hurried and last-minute decisions without time to think through and adequately process things, resulted in a lot of exhaustion and an unhealthy work-life balance. The speed at which things happened and the lack of time to make better decisions was, and is, an unsustainable model. The principle of Sabbath was very much absent with people working insane hours at an unsustainable pace. There were many on staff who experienced, or were on the verge of, burnout a lot of the time. We survived on the adrenalin rush, which hurt and harmed people. The pace and the work environment was unsustainable, unhealthy and unwise.
As l live my life as a leader, and coach leaders, I’m much more aware and desirous to do what I can to make sure there is:
1. Good and genuine accountability, coupled with vulnerability and transparency.
2. A clear value in keeping short accounts, with sin being quickly confessed and owned.
3. An attitude of being teachable and open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
4. A culture of pacing that is realistic and sustainable, resulting in good morale and joy.
As always, your feedback is much appreciated!